Bill Shoemaker
This is the second incarnation of Point of Departure. The first was a column that ran through the late 1990s in the Madrid-based Cuadernos de Jazz. Of course, it was then called Punto de Partida. It obviously references the great Andrew Hill Blue Note recording. The reason I selected Hill’s title was that, unlike Jackie McLean’s One Step Beyond, it did not imply mode of transportation, route, distance, or destination. This is just the beginning, the pianist suggested with his title, a notion he confirmed to when we talked early this year before his solo concerts at An Die Musik in Baltimore. You figure it out as you go along, he added.

The real impetus for this incarnation of Point of Departure was to test an alternative to the ossified economic relationship between readers, content providers and advertisers. Traditionally, readers pay for magazines, which creates a set of consumer expectations. Likewise, ad buyers have their expectations. Both sets of expectations create a great rush to the middle, editorially. Where that middle is from month to month, year to year, or decade to decade naturally changes with the ongoing evolution of music. Still, check out several jazz magazines in any given month, and you’ll see significant overlap. And, you’ll always see it as long as the hard copy magazine prevails in the market.

The Web is the elegant solution. It is the perfect delivery system for free content and dirt-cheap advertising, two conditions necessary for an off-center editorial policy. Conversely, the cost of production gives individuals the ability to make a real go of it, and to survive failure. These are prerequisites for true editorial independence, not the limited freedom that jazz magazine editors currently have in selecting the artists, recordings and events to be covered in any given issue.

That purer independence remains on the far horizon even for this concern. Therein lies the rub of the idea of a point of departure. It infers a connection that must be dealt with. Jazz magazines are wonderful, after all, deserving the type of homage George Orwell gave the boys’ weeklies of his youth. Interviews, reviews of performances and recordings, historical overviews: all of these formats are far from exhausted. How to improve them is a big job. We’ll figure it out along the way.